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Don’t assume your sales team will fail…here’s why

by Kim Ades July 5, 2013

So often you’ll overhear leaders complaining about their teams. “He’s lazy. She cuts corners. He always needs a push to succeed.” Leaning on the basic tenet that “What You Focus on Grows”, this view of employees can have a detrimental effect that is difficult to recover from.

The truth is that it’s human nature to want to succeed and if that isn’t happening there is a good reason why – either the person’s skills and talents are not being applied to the right purpose, or the person carries a set of beliefs that prevents them from success. Assuming that they are in the right job, then your view of them, as their leader, has a significant impact on their likelihood of soaring versus crashing. Imagine how much more productive your team would be if you simply assumed that each member of your team had a burning desire to succeed.

When people are perceived in a good light, they step up to the light. A good friend and former coaching client, Tony Cole, is a master sales trainer. He recently shared an article on this very topic and I would love to share it with you:

The Truth About Your Sales People #1 – They Want to Succeed

Description: sales success, sales talen

Your sales people want to succeed! One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received about coaching came from Kim Ades, President of Frame of Mind Coaching. She said that when I am working with people and they are not performing in a way that is consistent with my expectations, the first thing I should do is “assume positive intent.” This is huge!

What does “assume positive intent” mean relative to the topic today? It simply means that the people you have hired or inherited did not get into sales to fail. They do not come to work each and every day with the intention of failing. They do not go to continuing education classes, sales training workshops or motivational talks with the intention of “not” succeeding. I once heard a comedian talk about the runner that finishes last in the Olympic marathon race. He pretended to be the runner during a training run talking to himself saying, “I’m going to finish last, I’m going to finish last, I’m going to finish last.” You and I both know that it just doesn’t work that way.

But, if this is the case, why do 80% of sales people fail to hit their goals? This is a different question than asking why some of your people are on the wrong side of the bell curve. I recognized this on a flight to San Diego several years ago. I was preparing for my keynote – Sell in Any Market and I was thinking about my client and the work we had done together over the years, developing their sales culture and sales people. One of the things we focused on every year was the idea of “cutting the bottom 10%”. I know this sounds elementary, but what experts like me fail to tell people is that you will always have a bottom 10%! The key is to make sure this year’s bottom 10% is better than last year’s. You will always have people on the left side of the bell curve – that’s a given. But that doesn’t mean they have to fail to hit goal.

There are lots of reasons why your sales people fail to hit goals.

  • Goals are arrived at using the wrong methods
  • They don’t know how to approach a changing market
  • They don’t know how to sell in a new buyers’ buying environment
  • They don’t have the skill set or knowledge to execute your strategy
  • They need to have more structure to consistently prospect
  • They have settled in a “comfort zone”
  • There are no consequences for lack of performance or activity
  • Your culture allows mediocrity
  • I could go on for another whole page…

But, what isn’t on the list is “They want to fail.”

What’s the fix? You will get sick of me repeating the same solutions to the underperformance issue, but be assured my intent is positive. I want you to get this and I want you to help your people succeed at a higher level than they are at today. Here is part of “the fix”.

  • Understand that the people who are underperforming are your people. You and the organization have either made them the way they are or you recruited them the way they are. (However, after a year, you cannot make the excuse that you inherited them.) You have to accept this responsibility if you are going to fix the problem.
  • You must find out the root causes for their performance. You witness the symptoms of either a lack of effort or failure to execute, but do you know the root cause?
  • Properly on-boarding people is critical to success. You must, in the very beginning, have a rigorous program of sales activity, performance management and one-on-one coaching. In addition…
  • You must have a very in-depth discussion early on (either when you inherit a team or you recruit a new hire) about your expectations, what it means to succeed and what defines failure.
  • You must have a solid process for recognizing success (success in effort and execution of sales activity) not just hitting sales numbers.
  • You must have a solid, consistent process of administering consequences when people fail to perform. This means you have to have…
  • A “disciplined” approach to help people succeed. Too often, companies rely on PIPS to correct behavior. This step for modifying employee behavior is applied too late in the process and is received as punitive rather than constructive, no matter how you try to spin the message.
  • Assume positive intent. Get to the bottom of what they want, how they define success and how can you help them achieve what they want to achieve.

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